Two weeks ago, Valencia celebrated their world famous Fallas/Falles festival. I, along with my friend from back home, Eddie, headed to Valencia to partake in the celebrations. We stayed with Carmen, a friend of mine studying in Valencia, and her roommates who also invited a number of their friends. Thanks to Carmen, and her friends, Eddie and I were able to enjoy Falles through a somewhat local perspective; although they are not from Valencia, they have now lived and studied there for several years. Falles felt like a kick start to the last two months of my time in Spain, providing a spark that made March fly by, leaving me and my fellow fellows, trying to fill every weekend, day, and minute with a meaningful and new experience.
Every week night I take a ten-minute walk from the Paco de Lucia metro station to my home after work. The air is crisp and cold; it is late at night so there are only a few people coming out of the metro. My walk begins with a stretch of uphill; to my left is a cement wall which ends where an incline with bushes and vines begins. To the right is a road where the occasional car or bus heading to plaza de Castilla passes by. Also to the right, once I am higher up on the incline, I can see the dimly lit apartments against the dark blue sky. Beyond these I can see the lights of the buildings in the distance, and above the metro exit the occasional train passes by with a loud blow of its whistle. After the incline, I continue walking on a straight road past the Mercadona, a large supermarket, followed by a vibrant street with restaurants on one side and apartments on the other. Even though my walk home is usually between 10 and 11 pm, there are always people sitting outside eating and talking. I pass by waiters and people walking their dogs (there are so many dogs where I live). I hear the chatter coming from the people eating and cars passing by; on occasion one of the workers and I exchange a good night. This peaceful residential area I call home is a welcomed respite from the stress and hustle of the day. Once I arrive to the gate to enter my apartment complex, I wave to the doorman who always lets me in.
I’m one of the most indecisive people I know, so my recent spontaneity is slightly surprising if viewed objectively. However, my indecision seems to have taken the back burner ever since I decided to do 1+4. It only resurfaces every once in a while when I’m editing a picture or deciding whether or not I should buy a pincho de tortilla every time I go out. Big decisions can be scary and multifaceted, so I’ve begun to avoid the anxiety-inducing weighing of pros and cons by simply skipping the overthinking (or thinking at all?). A few weeks ago, some of my fellow fellows and I decided to endure a night-bus and visit Barcelona for the weekend (because why not). One Sunday I was exploring El Rastro and was about to buy a scarf for five euros when I decided that I should get two instead. They were cheap, and I’d only bought like 11 so far this year, so obviously it was completely justifiable. Last weekend I chopped my hair when I didn’t really have any intention of doing so the night before or even the morning of. Who knew I could be so impulsive! Who knew I’d cut my hair shorter than my traumatizing seventh grade bob! Who knew I’d eat fish every day after actively hating it my entire life! Who knew I’d be capable of travel planning (and executing)! Who knew that I would go to Madrid for nine months after high school and change in some slightly ridiculous, but other quite profound ways? In high school, I had absolutely no intention of taking a year before university. I didn’t even consider it as an option when applying to college. But when I applied, was accepted to, and saw my financial aid package for the 1+4 program, there was no speculation. There was no weighing of advantages and disadvantages. I was going to Madrid in the fall! I was blinded by the sheer amazingness that is this opportunity. And of course there were advantages and disadvantages—there still are. But I knew there was no way this could have been the “wrong” decision.
Before you know it, you won’t recognize yourself. Maybe you’ll discover that you secretly want short hair and like fish. Everyone you’ll interact with every day is now a stranger, but they’ll become your new home, family, and community. You’ll look around at the people you talk to and care about and realize that you didn’t know any of them a year ago and never would have met them if you didn’t do this program. How cool is that? You’ll be a member of a new community, and might have to conduct your work in a foreign language. You’ll have a chance to learn outside of the normal education system. You’ll finally have the time to live. Without a ridiculously packed schedule where there isn’t enough time in the day to complete everything thoroughly and live a truly balanced life. You might discover an interest you never knew you had or start a new hobby. It just might be the best year of your life so far—it’s been mine. It seems like the only thing that scares me now is thinking about what my life would be like if I never did 1+4.